Appreciating the Interfaith Family
by Leslie Mezei
May you and your family have a wonderful holiday season, full of spirit, light, love, and service.
Light is a key symbol in many faith traditions, especially during their holy days. Earlier this month, we had a moving Festival of Lights Service in Toronto. A 13-year old First Nations young man performed rites, calling on the four directions with a ceremonial pipe, drums, and flute. A Hindu from the Himalayan Meditation Society had us all join in a peace invocation as well as the Gayatri mantra. A Buddhist chaplain of the University of Toronto led us through rites and chants. A Zoroastrian priest explained their teachings on light, then chanted in their original language. An actress recited stirring poetry to the Divine Feminine. A ten-year-old Bahá'í girl sang about the many prophets being the lamps of one light. A Jewish high school teacher lit the Chanukah candles and explained their origin. A Roman Catholic Priest donned a Santa Claus hat, explained its religious origins, and taught us a new Christmas song. A Turkish Muslim sang two Rumi poems set to music. Finally, a Sufi led us in the traditional chant of remembrance, “There is no God, but God.” It was a truly interspiritual experience.
It is a privilege to serve the Canadian interfaith community through this wonderful new publication, The Interfaith Observer, with its potential to become a truly international communication vehicle for the global interfaith community.
We know 2013 is going to be an active interfaith year in Canada and hope that each of you will help make TIO-in-Canada a communication hub for you and your interfaith efforts. Paul McKenna from Scarboro Missions is proposing a Canadian Interfaith Network. For that to work we will need an active networker from each organization involved with interfaith in Canada.
Paul Chaffee, the founding publisher and editor of The Interfaith Observer, joins me in wishing each one of you a Happy and Healthy New Year, with success in all your endeavours.
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More Multifaith Funding Cuts
OMC Press Release, November, 2012
“The Ontario Multifaith Council has received notice from the Minister of Community and Social Services, Hon. John Milloy, that as of March 31, 2013, its funding will be terminated. This will result in the elimination of the services provided by the Ontario Multifaith Council and its 13 regional multifaith committees comprised of over 200 dedicated volunteers. The authoritative voice on spiritual and religious care matters for Ontario’s increasingly diverse population will be jeopardized.
The Ontario Multifaith Council on Spiritual and Religious care (OMC) is a representative body of more than 30 distinct faith groups and formed by the Government of Ontario over 40 years ago. This good-faith partnership between the Ontario government and the faith groups of Ontario was formalized in a Memorandum of Agreement that the government has now decided to terminate. The Ontario Multifaith Council provides consultation and advice to the Ontario Government on matters relating to the provision of adequate and appropriate spiritual and religious care in government operated or funded institutions. The OMC collaborates with government in providing training and professional education for spiritual care providers (chaplains) and faith group volunteers, and provides advice on the qualifications, education and suitability of spiritual care providers in its institutions.
This funding represents a small investment by the Government of Ontario in protecting the religious and spiritual rights of many vulnerable Ontarians. We urge the Minister of Community and Social Services to re-consider his decision and reinstate funding to enable the OMC to continue its valuable services for the citizens of Ontario.”
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Long-time Toronto Interfaith Leader Honoured
Interfaith Leadership Award Presented to Father Terry Gallagher
Saturday, November 24, 2012, Multifaith Centre, University of Toronto
The Institute of Traditional Medicine at its Graduation Ceremony presented Father Terry Gallagher with its Interfaith Leadership Award, for his “tremendous efforts, time, dedication and love in bringing religious and spiritual communities together.” Father Terry of the Scarboro Missions of Toronto has organized interfaith events for decades, is a regular visitor to many faith groups and their worship services, and brings his deep spirit and keen sense of humour to every encounter. True to form, he serenaded the graduates with a song!
Founder of Toronto Area Interfaith Council Honoured
Toronto’s Interfaith Director to be Honoured by Christian-Jewish Dialogue
Michael Swan, The Catholic Register, Friday, 09 November 2012
For The Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Toronto, talk is precious and deserves to be honoured. With those values front and centre, the 50-year-old organization will honour two people who have fostered conversations about faith, trust and our future together.
Franciscan Friar of the Atonement Father Damian MacPherson and Holocaust Education Centre operations manager Mary Siklos will be feted by Christian Jewish Dialogue at a Nov. 26 dinner in Toronto. Cardinal Thomas Collins will be the keynote speaker for the dinner at the Adath Israel Congregation.
“A lot of people start to question the need for dialogue at all,” said CJDT director Barbara Boraks. “We’ve got diversity in education, but we’re forgetting that everything comes down to personal relationships and knowing our neighbours.” The behind-the-scenes people who make dialogue possible aren’t often honoured, but should be, she said. “The event honours those relentless, grassroots workers who never get properly acknowledged or recognized,” said Boraks. “Damian fits that with bells on.”
“He has devoted his professional life to building bridges and working together and building understanding for each other,” said Siklos of MacPherson. For more than a decade, MacPherson has been director of ecumenical and interfaith affairs for the archdiocese of Toronto. He was also the founding president of the Toronto Area Interfaith Council…
Curling brings multifaith Clergy together
Toronto Curling League Breaks Down Religious Barriers
Leslie Scrivener, The Toronto Star, Saturday November 17, 2012
Christian and Jewish clergy, some cantors and a funeral director practice interfaith dialogue on the curling rink. As faithfully as Sabbath candles on Friday evening or church bells Sunday morning, dozens of clergy meet weekly to practice a spirited form of interfaith dialogue.
It’s called curling. Most are from the United Church, but there are sprinklings of Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Jesuits and a handful of rabbis and cantors. Some are in their 30s and a few older than 80, and several have shared the ice for decades… The members of the Greater Toronto Interfaith Curling Club don’t talk theology on the ice, says Rev. Bert Foliot, a Jesuit priest and Rector of Regis College at the University of Toronto. “We are just together. What ecumenists call ‘the dialogue of life.’ ” ...
Interfaith Origins in Canada
The 1895 Pan American Congress of Religion and Education in Toronto
by Leslie Mezei
The platform at the 1893 Parliament in ChicagoMarcus Braybrooke has been writing a series of articles about the leading personalities at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, the most recent detailing of the Pan-Asian Participation in the 1893 Parliament. A comment posted at the end of Marcus’ latest article by Rina Chakravarti of the Toronto Vedanta Society asks if anyone knows about the 1895 Toronto follow-up to the Chicago Parliament, specifically, the Pan American Congress of Religion and Education in Toronto. Indeed, it was inspired by Chicago’s experience, but it was significantly different in one way.
The historic achievement in 1893 in Chicago was the presence and active involvement of representatives of non-Christian religions, though only one Muslim and no Indigenous representatives were invited. Paul Carus, an early supporter of the Parliament, put it this way: “The Religious Parliament of Chicago was a triumph of Christianity because Christians called the Parliament and listened patiently to all kinds of antagonistic (sic) opinion.” In retrospect, the Christians rather than the Buddhists, Hindus, or Sikhs sounded more proprietary about ‘the truth,’ but the fact remains: the 1893 Parliament in Chicago introduced the modern world to interfaith dialogue.
The Toronto Congress opened in Massey Hall, then just a year old.Alas, the Pan American Congress of Religion and Education two years later in Toronto, though it had many of the same speakers as the Parliament, invited only Christians and a few Jewish to speak. Some women’s representatives were invited, “a feature which would probably have been missing in such a gathering a generation back.” One report mentioned “Dr. Johnson, the coloured representative from Georgia.” But racial inclusivity did not mean religious inclusivity for the assembly of 3,000 who gathered for four days.
The organizers specifically declined to invite Swami Vivekananda, the star of the 1893 Parliament and subsequently the founder of the Vedanta Society, who conducted hundreds of public and private lectures and classes teaching the tenets of Hinduism in America, England, and Europe. Here is one of his talks on Unity, the Goal of Religion, from 1896, and a modern interpretation of it in a recent Huffington Post blog, Do All Religions Teach the Same Truth?
The Pavilion, where the Congress ended.The Vedanta Society of Toronto comments: “In 1895 Canada was still younger, less experienced and more conservative compared to the United States. With increased demographical diversity in the Canadian population in the past few decades, noticeable changes have taken place socially and politically, mainly in Ontario. In the nineteen-sixties the population of immigrants of Indian origin (India, West Indies, Africa and Sri Lanka) had increased significantly and brought the tenets of their practicing faiths as well with their respective doctrines, traditions and rituals.”
Since then there have been four Parliaments of the World’s Religions (1993, 1999, 2004, 2009). And in honour of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary, a World Congress of Religions has just concluded in Washington D.C. On January 12th, 2013 the music groups of many faiths will gather at the Toronto Vedanta Society for a Music of Faith celebration.
We have made progress in many ways, although interfaith and interspirituality are still minority movements. As for Toronto, we are looking forward to the North American Interfaith Network’s NAIN Connect 2013, August 11-14, 2013, In Diversity is Our Strength. There is still time to answer the Call for Proposals. And two years after that, we are hosting the Pan American 2015 Games, on the occasion of which we would like to establish a permanent interfaith centre.